Dream Team (A Book Review)

Dream Team: How Michael, Magic, Larry, Charles, and the Greatest Team of All Time Conquered the World and Changed the Game of Basketball Forever, penned by Hall of Fame basketball scribe Jack McCallum, delves deep into the most famous basketball team ever assembled. The 1992 USA Basketball team brought NBA players into the Olympic mix and accomplished two major goals. The team brought credibility back to USA Basketball and increased global awareness of the sport, as a whole, and the National Basketball Association, as a league. Missions accomplished.

Dream TeamThe author weaves together stories of the team’s formation and its triumphs with tales of the individual athletes that made USA Basketball not just dominant, but world-famous. His one-on-one access to the basketball legends and extensive time spent around the team that summer brings a uniqueness to this book not found in other Dream Team recollections. Jack McCallum twists together two narratives throughout the book using differing font types to distinguish between the team’s 1992 genesis and current day interviews with its cast of characters. His writing is stylistic and smart but he remembers his target audience, basketball fans not physics professors. McCallum does a nice job of separating the team into its characters, highlighting the showmanship of Magic, the pure dominance of Jordan and the humor of Bird and Barkley. Each athlete is explored in the Dream Team chapters, even twelfth man Christian Laettner.

The story of the Dream Team’s successes in Barcelona is fascinating and the author covers the in-game dominance in fair detail. But the story behind the story is about how the team was built and the politicking that went on behind the scenes along the way. McCallum starts his story years before the ’92 team was rostered, detailing the efforts of certain individuals to bring NBA stars to the international games. The case was made and finally accepted by those in power and it came time to pick America’s basketball representatives. And therein lies the true intrigue. Why was Isaiah Thomas left off the Dream Team roster? Did USA Basketball officials consider Shaquille O’Neal instead of Christian Laettner for its lone collegiate representative? Who was on the short list with Chuck Daley for the head coaching gig? And how did an intrasquad scrimmage become known as the greatest game never seen? McCallum sheds light on these and many other side stories that went into the making of the Dream Team. While other documented renditions of this historical basketball summer cover the game-by-game details, this more interesting version lays out what made the team one that will never be forgotten.

Jack McCallum, who covered the 1992 Barcelona Olympics for Sports Illustrated, brings us back to that summer with his eloquent writing and insider’s perspective. Not only does he explain the event from its inception through the gold medal ceremony (a controversy in its own right), he spent time with the players well after the fact and captures their retrospective on the Dream Team and what it meant to basketball, globally. Dream Team is a must read for anyone that watched the ’92 Olympics or those that just enjoy the sport. It’s a fresh take on the story and adds valuable color commentary to the play-by-play of the games themselves.

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Jack McCallum

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